There’s no better way to experience Amsterdam than on two wheels. There are more bikes than cars in the Netherlands’ capital — meaning the city’s extensive bike-path network is always jam-packed.
This rush of wheels can be intimidating to tourists; it’s like playing double Dutch with the jump-rope-wielding neighborhood kids and wondering, “When is the perfect moment to jump in?”
Thankfully the citizens of Amsterdam are pretty patient and forgiving as long as you’re courteous. So hop on your rental bike and hit the road to discover the city’s sights as well as some of the tastiest things Amsterdam has to offer.
Apple Cake at Winkel 43
Start your morning with a sweet treat to fuel your bike tour. Head to Winkel 43 and order a café au lait or tea along with a nice big hunk of apple cake (or, as the Dutch call it, appelkoek, and sometimes appeltaart).
Appelkoek is not pie, nor is it a traditional cake. Essentially, it’s apple slices tossed in cinnamon, and occasionally other earthy spices (think nutmeg, cardamom, ginger), then baked into a crumbly and tender cake-like shell. It’s a must-eat Dutch staple and an excellent way to fuel up for a busy day of cycling.
After enjoying your apple cake, head south to the Vondelpark. This lush green space is punctuated by streams, canals and ponds — a perfect spot to spend a warm, sunny spell reading, tossing around a Frisbee, picnicking and people watching.
Even if you have limited time to spend lounging, it’s a worthy stop on your way to nearby museums such as the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh Museum, where you’ll find the world’s largest collection of the famed “The Starry Night” painter’s work.
Whether you’re looking for a new shirt, a snack or a souvenir, chances are you’ll find it at the Albert Cuypmarkt.
This busy, open-air market has more than 260 vendor stands and is just around the bend from the Vondelpark in the city’s bustling De Pijp neighborhood. Stop by to sample some freshly made stroopwafels as well as some Dutch cheeses like Gouda or Edam.
It’s also a stone’s throw from the original Heineken brewery, which now operates as the Heineken Experience tourist center.
Pancakes, Pancakes, Pancakes
Still hungry? Good — because the Dutch eat pancakes for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Pancakes (pannekoeken) in the Netherlands aren’t your typical short stack smothered in syrup.
Think of them more like French crêpes — large, thin, doughy discs that are perfect vehicles for either a sweet or savory topping. Choose cheese, veggies and/or meat, or opt for the traditional sugar-and-cinnamon combo. Then fold up your pancake and dig in.
Indulge at the Pancake Bakery or Pannekoekenhuis Upstairs. Leave room at either outpost for dessert, too: Poffertjes — puffy mini-pancakes sprinkled with powdered sugar — are a hallmark of Dutch cuisine.
Enjoy a Patio Drink
Next, roll your way over to the busy Leidseplein area, park your bike along the canal, and grab a seat and a glass of beer at any of the bar patios there.
The Leidseplein is a central area frequented by tourists and locals alike and is populated by a number of bars, restaurants, cafés and, yes, coffeeshops — making it an optimal people-watching spot and fun locale in which to imbibe.
Finish Off with Frites
After a few drinks — or after you’ve digested your pancake feast — it’s time to try another Dutch treat: the cone of frites.
These Belgian-style, thick-cut fries are typically served smothered in a mayonnaise-based topping called fritessaus and are usually accompanied by a little wooden two- or three-pronged fork. If you’re not a fan of the mayo dressing, try it with a curry or satay sauce.
Head to the Vleminckx frites stand — before the 7 p.m. closing time — to enjoy this delicious snack.
Though the Dutch have such a calorific cuisine, they still somehow manage to remain slim. As European news agency Deustche Welle surmised, perhaps all that biking has something to do with it.
So when in Amsterdam, act as the Dutch do: Enjoy treats (in moderation) and pedal like the wind in between.